Kelly Johnson Accepts Blue Jays' Arbitration Offer

After crossing a closer off of his shopping list and also acquiring a pair of draft picks on Tuesday, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos will leave the Winter Meetings with a second baseman as well.

According to SI’s Jon Heyman (via Twitter), Kelly Johnson has accepted the Jays’ arbitration offer and will return to Toronto in 2012, likely earning a raise on the $5.85 million he earned this past season.

Johnson and the Jays will now look to decide on a salary figure for a one-year, non-guaranteed contract between now and January 18, but they are free to negotiate any kind of contract during that time as well. We could see Anthopoulos add a club option onto the one-year deal, or even work out a multiyear contract instead. Either way, as we have seen with Anthopoulos in the past, he will not discuss a contract after that January 18 deadline, so if no agreement is made, then Johnson’s case would go to an arbitration hearing.

Although Anthopoulos mentioned that Johnson can play left field, he’ll be the Jays’ everyday second baseman and complete an infield with Adam Lind, Brett Lawrie, and double play partner Yunel Escobar.

“We offered on Kelly Johnson because we were fine with whatever outcome,” Anthopoulos said in an article on BlueJays.com. “Either he comes back or we get the Draft picks. We’re fine, we’re happy, it’s a good outcome, it’s a no lose for us.”

While I would have liked to see the Jays receive the two draft picks if Johnson had signed elsewhere, I’m intrigued to see what he’ll be able to contribute in a full season’s worth of at-bats with the Jays.

One year removed from a .284/.370/.496 season with Arizona, Johnson, struggled with the Diamondbacks this season despite hitting 23 doubles and 18 home runs. In 33 games with the Jays, though, he went 31-for-115 (.270) with four doubles, a pair of triples, three home runs, and a .781 OPS, which resembled his 2010 form in the desert.

Both Anthopoulos and manager John Farrell are valuing on-base percentage and seeing more pitches per at-bat, so Johnson will definitely fit right into the lineup in that regard. He’s guaranteed to be better than the .225 average and .584 OPS that Aaron Hill put up in 104 games this past season, so the Jays should definitely see an offensive upgrade from second base.

To what degree, however, will remain to be seen!

- JM

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